It seems I am endlessly reminded of the loss of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose sudden passing last year still feels like some kind of shock. I suppose it’s because I keep on returning to his music, and the kind of melancholy that infused so much of it. For the past few days I’ve been listening to In the Endless Pause There Came The Sound of Bees, one of his early albums and the soundtrack to a little-known animated short film titled Varmints. Its a short album – the original animation is less than thirty minutes long- but it is full of al kinds of beauty and tenderness, a really deceptively complicated soundscape with fragile melodies and textures. I discovered the album back when I first became besotted with Jóhann’s music through his Fordlandia album and became obsessed with discovering his past albums, scouring the internet for copies where I could. In the Endless Pause is a really fine soundtrack, so much so I would not be at all surprised to find some fans of his music consider it their favourite. It is so subtle and otherworldly, using electronics, organ and choir and solo voice to weave some particular magic that only Jóhann could really manage, somehow- and a sober reminder indeed of what we fans lost. Everytime I listen to some of his music I wonder at his talent at what what may have lay ahead of him, what fine music we will never hear, what films may have benefitted from his touch. I listen to his music now and feel like I and his music are held in some endless pause- as if some divine ‘pause’ button was pressed too soon, and I’m waiting for someone to press the ‘play’ button, so somehow he’ll be back, and there will be more of his beautiful music in the world.
To give readers unfamiliar with either Jóhann or this particular album an idea of what this music is like, here’s a link to the film/album’s End Theme.
Its a fine gem of an album indeed and perhaps surprisingly upbeat. Jóhann’s music has a reputation for being moody and sombre, and much of it is, but I don’t think that necessarily means its dark or depressing- I suppose it’s the Icelandic in his soul. I think ‘fragility’ is a word I’d prefer to use, or ‘intimate’.
The album was rare when I bought it, years ago, but can be found now on a Deutsche Grammophon anthology, Retrospective 1, which contains seven of his early recordings (a second Retrospective collection is due next year, likely collecting his later and more commonly found works). The Varmints film itself came be found on Youtube too and is well worth a watch, and I believe can be purchased on itunes.